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MSPs: Scottish Government should consider intrusive inspections of tower blocks

A Holyrood committee has urged the Scottish Government to consider intrusive inspections of residential tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

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The cross-party Local Government and Communities Committee backed calls from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and the Fire Brigades Union Scotland (FBUS) for a detailed look at fire safety measures in towers.

Fire safety experts have criticised fire risk assessments of tower blocks for not looking at the inside of flats.

The committee’s report, Building Regulations and Fire Safety in Scotland, said the panel of MSPs had heard evidence in September from a range of bodies regarding fire safety in high-rise buildings.


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“SFHA, in responding to a committee suggestion, confirmed that it would support unannounced fire safety inspections as providing reassurances to tenants about fire safety standards,” said the report.

“The SFHA also supported a one-off intrusive inspection exercise to provide reassurance to tenants.”

Representatives of the FBUS told the committee that the remit of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety should be expanded to include a one-off intrusive inspection of tower blocks in Scotland.

“Similar to that carried out by London Fire Brigade following the Grenfell fire, such inspections involve a detailed look at the safety of the building such as fire doors, the smoke detectors, the heat detectors and areas that have been impacted by maintenance, repair or redevelopment,” said the committee report.

“The FBUS recognised that such an exercise will be time-consuming and costly. However by proactively inspecting buildings the FBUS contends that a more comprehensive picture of any wider fire safety concerns would be established, enabling early identification [of] other potential safety risks.”

The report also called for home buyers to be given more information about their rights around build quality and what to do in the case of defects.

“We recommend that the Scottish Government considers ways in which additional support can be provided, including through: more standardised missives or contracts; enhanced consumer advice and support; working with local authorities to more clearly articulate the role of building standards verification and certification; and access to an ombudsman to mediate when disputes arise,” it said.

Bob Doris, committee convenor and Scottish National Party MSP, said: “We welcome the additional fire safety visits undertaken by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and others to inform and reassure residents.

“The committee is supportive of unannounced inspections as part of the overall approach to national fire safety. We also believe there is a powerful case for the new inventory of high rises in Scotland to be regularly updated and for access to vital safety information to be speedily accessible.

“Our committee will continue to monitor the progress of the Ministerial Working Group as well as providing constructive scrutiny, and our thoughts remain with the families and friends who lost their loved ones in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are currently considering the findings of the report. There is an on-going review of building standards and fire safety as part of the work programme of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety and a sub-group met for the first time on 27 October to begin a full and thorough review of the fire safety aspects of building regulations in Scotland. The ministerial working group will be updated as this work progresses.”

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